April 2, 2007 1:38 PM PDT

Rush for H-1B visas under way

The 2007 rush for H-1B guest worker visas has begun.

April 1 marked the start date for technology companies to seek permission from the U.S. government to hire temporary foreign employees under the visa program, which permits up to 65,000 H-1Bs to be issued this year. Exceptions, however, allow that number to be exceeded.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and other luminaries in the hardware and software business for years have pressed Congress to raise the limit, but politicians went home last December without doing anything.

"Without an increase in the number of H-1B visa and green cards issued each year, our nation loses the opportunity to benefit from the contributions of highly educated and skilled workers from around the world," Jack Krumholz, Microsoft's top lobbyist, said at the time. "American businesses and society in general will be worse off due to Congress' lack of action on this issue."

The H-1B program allows foreigners with at least a bachelor's degree in their area of specialty to be employed in the United States for up to six years. They're currently capped at 65,000 visas per year, with an additional 20,000 visas set aside for foreigners with advanced degrees, after peaking at 195,000 between 2001 and 2003.

In April 2005, and again last month, Gates said that any H-1B limits should be completely eliminated. Groups like the Information Technology Industry Council, whose member companies include Apple, Dell, Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel and Microsoft, have called for substantially higher limits.

Last year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the annual cap on H-1B visas had been reached by May 26, less than two months after they began to be issued on April 1, 2006.

During the last Republican-controlled Congress, the U.S. Senate voted to raise the H-1B visa cap to 115,000, and President Bush endorsed the idea. But it died in the House of Representatives. It's not clear what the prospects are under a Democratic Congress.

One source of opposition has been protectionist forces, including labor unions and the IEEE-USA, which have said the H-1B system harms Americans by bringing in foreign workers who are willing to do the same job for less money.

IEEE's position statement opposes increasing the H-1B limits and says that holders of those visas "are competing with growing numbers of displaced citizens and legal permanent residents for jobs in troubled high-tech labor markets."

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12 comments

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Imported labor- H-1B Visa's
The problem is not increasing the numbers of visa's for tech jobs. The problem is curtailing the misuse of the current program. I've seen various non-tech industries misuse the availability of cheap labor from abroad. Some like the hotel/casino and restaurant industry use the program for tax advantages well as the for temporary seasonal labor. The problem is that they replace existing local labor in favor of the bottom line (no taxes or benefits paid). The foreign worker also ends up paying no individual taxes. With the overuse of this visa for non skilled workers the amount of visa's left for high tech worker becomes diminished. Lets plug this visa loophole and reduce the amount of hotel/casino and restaurant jobs (Global Industry nad others) allowed by foreign workers in this country.
Posted by rudyguru (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Problems include excessive numbers of visas
The problems include hugely excessive numbers of visas being
passed out to cheap labor, when they were alleged to be only for
"the best and brightest" few, "the pre-eminent". But, of course,
those were just phony lobbyist sales-pitches, as "innovation" is,
today. If numbers were set to match those claims only 1,000 or
fewer visas would be issued each year.

They cranked up the student visas hoping to flood the job
markets and drive down compensation for those with advanced
degrees. They did and it happened. Now, they want every
student visa to be easily convertible into a permanent visa. Let's
make a deal. Cut the number of student visas from half a
million each year to 500 each year, make every one of them pass
and pay for a thorough background investigation before getting
the student visa, and you can convert as many of those 500 to
permanent status after they graduate.
Posted by BatmanG8 (74 comments )
Link Flag
Conditions change yet our goals remain.
Remember our dilemma with liberalism in America? The founding fathers wanted freedom for the individual from despotic dynastic rule. They wanted the individual to be able to flourish and reach their potential. At that time it was a good idea to have less government as it acted overwhelmingly in favor of the powerful over the many. And the assumption was that economically there would be an equalizing effect across the population with everyone having the same opportunity to act as they may. The economy was largely based upon the yeoman farmer and perhaps the independent artisan worker. Our solution was to prevent the government from causing inequalities. This led to the Laissez Faire doctrine, and that with the increases of technology and amassment of capital the Industrial Era came upon us. The goals of personal freedom in order to flourish in circumstances of true opportunity and liberty from uneven power relationships over one's life such as in the area of supporting oneself remained the same.
The source of the newly developed limits upon one's liberty came not from the government but from the "private" sector. The major corporations of the late 19th century had the power to limit the personal liberty of the people to flourish as individuals while the government was now the potential source of leveling the playing field, the potential source of being the countervailing force on behalf of the individual. Over several decades Anti-Trust and other leveling regulations were enacted. We moved from Government involvement in Society as being solely the bad for us; to Government could be the good guy in the new circumstances. The same goal of liberalism remains for personal liberty and freedom for the individual to flourish and act upon their view of the good life. Nowadays the Old Liberalism seems to be housed with conservative politics, and the New Liberalism (of President Franklin's New Deal era) seems to have taken over the name of liberal politics.

As simple and as illustrative as that we can look to other themes where the goals are quite constant and the circumstances are quite changed. We want our nation?s economy to flourish, right? Aside from short term periods of labor shortages in our country, we have had many people to fill jobs here in America. Now the Baby Boomers are going into retirement en masse combined with a measurable decrease in Hard Science graduates such engineering, physics etc...to take the jobs of today. I can rationally state that the circumstances are changed for our nations economy to flourish. (And I am not even asking if there is more global competition now than 50 years ago. Or if there is a 'race to the bottom' for wages, work conditions, quality of products, etc...in the global economy). I am pointing out that our commitment to opposing immigration is simply a commitment to a relic of the past. It is a commitment to a policy irrespective of the purpose of the policy.

Keeping our firms here as opposed to their going overseas to India for example to find technically proficient workers remains a goal, but the way to do that is no longer facilitated by closing the door to qualified workers entering our country. Reasonable and intelligent people can figure out how to get the right people into the right jobs in a fair and transparent manner. This is possible; no, actually it is essential. Let's get good folks over here, let's keep our firms here in America, and let?s allow our economy to flourish well into the future. It's as simple as sticking to our goal pragmatically, NOT sticking to a method of reaching the goal which worked in the world of yesteryear. Let's be as flexible as our forerunners have been to adjust the means in order to get our same ends. Let?s keep in focus that sometime in the future those who come after us will be in different circumstances and will have to adjust these methods that we have selected in order to realize the same ends. See: the ends are more constant in nature, and the means to acquiring the ends are more relative in nature. We've done this before and we can do this again.
Posted by jefframse (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
history a little off
Your history is a little off. The Industrial Era started before the
American Revolution. And the need for people to defend against
initiation of force and fraud has been constant.

The current frauds include claims that there's a shortage of tech
talent in the USA, and that H-1B visas-holders are paid
prevailing compensation (for their abilities, knowledge, location,
etc.).
Posted by BatmanG8 (74 comments )
Link Flag
The h-1b program is being used to offshore outsource U.S. jobs
Businessweek: The h-1b program is a "conduit to offshoring"

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/feb2007/db20070208_553356.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/feb2007/db20070208_553356.htm</a>

MSNBC: "Work visas may work against the U.S."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17048048/" target="_newWindow">http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17048048/</a>

Bill gates doesn't give XXXX about the U.S. worker, read up on how he sticks it to his own Microsoft employees:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/03/30/EDGRJN7CFB1.DTL" target="_newWindow">http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/03/30/EDGRJN7CFB1.DTL</a>

70% (or more) of the 65,000 available h-1b visas are being used by foreign offshore outsourcing companies. These foreign companies are using the Visas to train their workers in the U.S., and then ship them back home to continue the IT offshore outsourcing process.

Companies are using the h-1b program to help them setup foreign offices, development groups of all sizes, and divisions. H-1b workers are paid 20% less than their U.S. citizen counterpart. That's less tax money, then the company sends the worker back to India (usually), where he doesn't pay a dime in U.S. taxes, and proceeds to build a offshore development group that further removes U.S. jobs.

Companies such as Microsoft and Oracle are actually just trying to escape the high infrastructure cost (8 trillion dollars worth) of the United States. Half an engineer's salary is taxes. Taxes that pay Social Security to help our senior citizens, that keep the roads up, that assist our farmers, and taxes that are being used to defend the rest of the world from harm.

The U.S. department of labor has stated that companies can hire an h-1b worker over a U.S. citizen, even if the U.S. worker is just as qualified/capable as the foreign worker.

In open testimony before the U.S. congress, a job applicant called an agency to see if she could apply for a programming job on the east coast. The congress members were shocked to hear that the agency would not consider her for a job, because she could not be sponsored with an h-1b visa. The George Bush Department of Labor took no action against the company, even though most americans would consider this a clear act of bigotry against the U.S. citizen.

And the reason is clear, most h-1b visas are used to offshore U.S. jobs, not to create U.S. jobs.

All over the IT workplace, U.S. citizens are facing open discrimination, simply because their point of origin happens to be the United States. There is an onslought of bigotry being perpetrated by industry against the working U.S. citizen.

And guess what, Congress wants to extend h-1b-like guest worker status to a variety of low-paying jobs. Talk about stickin' to the american people. If this congress has its way, you won't even be able to work at Jack in the box.
Posted by Jake Leone (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not a true fact
Those writers only make up interesting stories like that.
Posted by joelam888 (300 comments )
Link Flag
FY 2008 H-1B Cap
Bob Deasy, Director of Liaison for American Immigration Lawyers Assn confirmed that he'd been hearing that FedEx alone had 40,000 packages sent to the Vermont Service Center for April 2 delivery. He'd heard there were 34,000 for FedEx alone for California Service Center. This doesn't account for UPS, DHL, Express Mail, and other services.

This suggests that the 65,000 H-1B cap for FY 2008 was exceeded on the first day of filing. USCIS announced last week that it would use a lottery for all new H-1B packages received on April 2 and April 3 if that happened.
Posted by speticolas (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
American Competitiveness
For me, the question is whether H1Bs really improve American competitiveness. They increase options for multi-national corporations, no doubt. But are they in the best interest of America? Do they contribute towards an environment good for American consumers, American job-seekers, and a robust economic tech sector that can whether the shocks of fortune?

I don't think H1Bs are bad in theory, but information points to their misuse. Bringing smart folks from other nations to increase American mindshare in technical fields is generally a good thing as long as they stay. But I don't think exporting America's tech IP to other nations is in America's interest.
And certainly, support for a 70-30 structure of a few jobs in America supported by foreign teams is not a great model for the future -- as with most of the hardware industry and other manufacturing industries, where the low end is, most of the high end will be.
Unless we can make some low-end tech development viable in the U.S., the rest will leave as well.
Posted by CompEng (201 comments )
Reply Link Flag
wise words
I appreciate your insight and perspective. We need our firms to do more stuff here: keep our taxes here, our jobs here, our infrastructure here.
Posted by jefframse (20 comments )
Link Flag
H1B should not be by lottery, pick the best brains from the applications.
If the entire H1B process was started to attract the best brains to work in the US then what's the point in picking the applicants by lottery? By doing this we are defeating the very purpose of the H1B process.

I agree that some companies especially a lot of consultants exploit the H1B process to drive down wages but lets look at the broader picture.

I hire a lot of employees for my company ( a Fortune 50 company) and most often the best people for the job are foreign nationals from eastern Europe, India, China, Korea or many other countries which have a lot of skilled workers.

It makes sense to scan through the application and allocate H1B only to skilled labor which we want to retain in this country, even if this means delay in the H1B process.

Time and again we have see American society benefit from bringing the best brains to work in US. Lets look at Google, one of America's most admired companies, it was started by a person on H1B(Sergey Brin) and today it employs thousands of American workers. The same is the case with Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Sun Microsystems and a long list of companies who have immensely benefited from the skilled foreign workers. There is no denying that most foreign workers and hard working and skilled. We need those skills for our economy. Time and again they have contributed to the society and this country.

While I agree that the loop holes in H1B process have to be plugged...we should not let it;s limitations interfere with America's growing tech industry.

These companies will not stop short of anything to hire the best brains. If they cannot be hired in US then new offices will be opened offshore. Once this process kicks the companies will not be scared to more more jobs there.

Its better to drive wages a little lower rather than drive the jobs out to other countries. Also about outsourcing, most companies only outsource jobs that don't really make sense being in US. Do you want to hire people and pay them $20/hour to provide tech support for a $25 cartridge ? Do we want to hire people to do manual stuff like copy paste, click on buttons to run tests and wait hours for it to complete to observe the results ? No. these jobs are outsourced so that the American worker can put his time to better use by doing the actual stuff with is of strategic importance to the company and this country.

Just think about it with a sensible mind guys. Wake up to reality and don't kill our companies.
Posted by kev mitnick (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bell Initiative: American Technology Agenda
It's becoming clear, that existing H-1B practice is too much open for abuse and misuse, and essentially DOES NOT serve the purpose of bringing talents to the USA, but instead much more often it is used against highly qualified US Technology workers, simply replacing them with relatively low-wages foreign individuals.

Detailed H-1B modification proposal and the comprehensive American Technology Agenda are outlined in ?Bell Initiative? available online at:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.alexanderbell.us/Initiative/IT.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.alexanderbell.us/Initiative/IT.htm</a>

Bell Initiative, first introduced in 2003 and now topping Google ? search list, provides balanced approach to the H-1B and outsourcing issue. In a simple form its main provisions include:

? Mandatory Certification of non-immigrant foreign IT Workers.
? Creating the nationwide Government-supported Job posting Web site and USA Technology Workers database (?Talent Pool?)
? Increasing the social obligations of the C-Level folks (CEO and likes) of all publicly traded US Companies by trimming their compensations depends on corporate layoffs and outsourcing (in inverse proportion, of course, i.e., for example 10% layoffs and 15% outsourcing should lead to 25% decrease in C-Level annual compensation).

Some provisions of Bell Initiative require Congressional actions; if you agree with these provisions, then do not hesitate to include them in your future ?Election Checklist? in order to help you make sound and well-balanced voting decisions.
Posted by Alexander Bell (8 comments )
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